Display of President Lincoln documents extended through Feb. 29
State Historical Library responds to strong public interest in Lincoln

For immediate release February 13, 2008


Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – In response to strong public interest, the State Historical Library is extending a display of two historic documents written by President Abraham Lincoln.

Originally slated to be on display one night only – Monday, Feb. 11, 2008 – in conjunction with the Iowa Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission kickoff, the documents will be on display through Feb. 29, 2008 in the State Historical Building’s Reading Room, Second Floor East, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines’ Historic East Village. The Reading Room is open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

“We received an overwhelming number of calls this week from Iowans who have an interest in these documents,” said Cyndi Pederson, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “While these and other historic documents are entrusted to our care for preservation and protection, they belong to the people of Iowa. So we are responding to the public’s requests by extending the time we’re keeping them on display.”

The documents, written in 1859 and 1865, are part of the State Historical Library’s Special Collections section. They are normally kept in a highly secured storage area inside the State Historical Building, where they are protected from sunlight and fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Both documents have been authenticated by scholars as originals and are cited in the “Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln.”

Following are summaries of the two letters:

Abraham Lincoln letter to Hawkins Taylor (Keokuk, Iowa)
September 6, 1859
In this letter to a prominent Iowa Republican, Lincoln comments on the demands of campaigning: “It is bad to be poor. I shall go to the wall for bread and meat, if I neglect my business this year as well as last.” Having run unsuccessfully against Stephen A. Douglas for a U.S. Senate seat in 1858, he faced his political rival again in the 1860 presidential campaign. Hawkins Taylor (Keokuk) was a fellow-Kentuckian and prominent Iowa Republican. He served as a representative to the 1st Iowa Territorial Assembly, 1838.

Abraham Lincoln message to Election Notification Committee
March 1, 1865
When a special committee from the U.S. Congress informed Lincoln of his re-election as President, he delivered this message to accept the second term.  Representative James Falconer Wilson of Iowa, a member of the notification committee, asked to keep the original handwritten document. The manuscript was later presented to the State Historical Society of Iowa by Representative Wilson’s family.

Some of President Lincoln’s other ties to Iowa are below:

PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENTS – Lincoln appointed Samuel F. Miller of Keokuk, Iowa, to the United States Supreme Court, and James Harlan of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, as United States Secretary of the Interior

BRIDGE AT DAVENPORT – The first bridge across the Mississippi River, built in 1856, connected Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa, and was a major breakthrough for western travel and commerce. Lincoln had a key part in a lawsuit between riverboat interests and the railroads over the bridge.

VISIT TO COUNCIL BLUFFS – TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD – Lincoln traveled to Council Bluffs, Iowa in August 1859 and met with Grenville Dodge, who convinced him the transcontinental railroad should be routed through Council Bluffs.

HARLAN-LINCOLN HOUSE, MT. PLEASANT – Lincoln’s son, Robert, married the daughter of Iowa Senator James Harlan, whom Lincoln appointed Secretary of the Interior in 1865. Robert and Mary Harlan Lincoln wed in 1868. The family spent considerable time at Senator Harlan’s house in Mt. Pleasant.

LINCOLN’S IOWA LAND HOLDINGS – Lincoln’s military service in the Black Hawk War of 1832 led to him assuming ownership of two tracts of land in Iowa, one in Crawford County and one in Tama County.

LINCOLN IN DUBUQUE – Lincoln traveled to Dubuque, Iowa in late April or early May 1859, probably on railroad business.

SPEECH AT BURLINGTON – In the midst of the legendary Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, Lincoln made a side trip to Burlington, Iowa to make a political speech.

In 2007, Gov. Chet Culver signed House File 826 establishing the IALBC. All 50 states have joined the national Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in planning, coordinating and administering activities and programs during the next two years that commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of President Lincoln, who was born Feb. 12, 1809 in Kentucky.

Iowans are encouraged to contact IALBC at www.IowaLincoln200.org for more information about planning programs and activities at the local level that commemorate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth.



The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

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